Judges’ sentencing decisions with older offenders

Older offenders tend to be treated with more leniency in the criminal justice system. A number of studies show that older offenders are less likely to be incarcerated, and when they are incarcerated, are more likely to receive shorter sentences. However, to date, no research has directly examined wh...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Psychology, crime & law
Main Author: Smith, Martha S. (Author)
Contributors: Schriver, Jennifer L. (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2018
In:Psychology, crime & law
Year: 2018, Volume: 24, Issue: 2, Pages: 105-116
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Older offenders tend to be treated with more leniency in the criminal justice system. A number of studies show that older offenders are less likely to be incarcerated, and when they are incarcerated, are more likely to receive shorter sentences. However, to date, no research has directly examined why such leniency occurs. This study asked U.S. state trial court judges to reflect on their sentencing practices with older offenders and to rate the factors considered most important when sentencing this population. Responses were received from 212 judges. Only 31% of judges acknowledged treating older offenders with greater leniency. These judges also indicated that they predominantly rely on legal factors when making decisions about sentencing with older offenders rather than factors specifically associated with age. Only cognitive impairment was identified by judges as one of the five most important factors to consider when sentencing older offenders. These results are discussed in terms of judges’ awareness of how they weigh information to make legal decisions. The influence of judges’ age and attitudes about aging on sentencing decisions are also explored.
ISSN:1477-2744
DOI:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1390117